After nor'easter lingers at Delaware beaches, towns focus on repairing dune crossings

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Delaware beach towns are working to repair dune crossings following a week of wet weather that started with a nor'easter and caused significant erosion.

"There was an area of low pressure that kind of settled off the middle Atlantic coast," said National Weather Service meteorologist Dean Iovino. "It kind of stayed there for a while and produced northeast winds for quite a number of days, and that wind pushing along the coast resulted in the issues we encountered last week."

May nor'easters aren't that unusual, according to Iovino, but the duration of the bad weather is notable. Fortunately, sunny conditions are expected this week.

The wind blew a large amount of sand into the parking lot at the beach on Savannah Road in Lewes. After cleaning it up, the city was authorized by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to use it to replenish the north end of the beach at Roosevelt Inlet, according to Town Manager Anne Marie Townshend.

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The beach at Lewes' Cape Shores community, adjacent to Cape Henlopen State Park, had just been replenished, Townshend said. Scarping (the creation of beach cliffs formed by waves) was visible there Friday.

In Rehoboth Beach, the damaged dune fencing and narrow slivers of sand didn't stop people from enjoying the beach the following week. Despite dense fog, families were gathered on blankets and children splashed in the waves.

Beach access points at the north end of town still were closed Friday due to steep drop-offs on dune crossings, scarfing and the lack of accessible beach sand.

"We continue to coordinate with DNREC and expect that work will begin in earnest next week, with a focus on repairing dune crossings initially," said Rehoboth Beach spokeswoman Lynne Coan. "We expect that between DNREC and the city's efforts, most if not all of the crossings will be open for Memorial Day weekend."

Rehoboth Beach from atop a dune crossing at Rehoboth Avenue May 13.
Rehoboth Beach from atop a dune crossing at Rehoboth Avenue May 13.

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Dewey Beach closed all beach access points on Thursday but reopened them all late Friday after its maintenance team assessed and made repairs.

Bethany Beach officials did not respond to requests for comment by deadline, but they canceled a beach bonfire Friday. That evening, all beach access points remained closed. People gathered atop the dunes to survey the damage.

Because the damage occurred during a time of year in which "migratory shorebirds and other wildlife" are dependent on the beach for habitat, replenishment efforts are restricted, according to Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control spokesman Michael Globetti.

A police officer speaks to citizens atop a dune at Garfield Parkway in Bethany Beach. All dune crossings in Bethany Beach were closed May 13.
A police officer speaks to citizens atop a dune at Garfield Parkway in Bethany Beach. All dune crossings in Bethany Beach were closed May 13.

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The department works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on beach replenishment efforts.

It's unlikely the Delaware beaches will qualify for emergency repairs, according to Corps Public Affairs Officer Steve Rochette, but the agency recently received federal funding to conduct “routine periodic nourishment.”

Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany, South Bethany and Fenwick Island beaches likely will be replenished in the winter and spring of 2022 and 2023, according to Rochette, while Lewes likely will be replenished in the fall of 2023.

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Reporter Emily Lytle contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Delaware beach towns repair dune crossings after lingering nor'easter